Saturday, April 28, 2012

NBA Consensus Power Rankings, End of Regular Season Version

Each week, we respond to one roundtable question and here's this week's question as the NBA playoffs begin this afternoon: If the Miami Heat get to the NBA Finals (and lose), should their season be viewed as a "failure"?

John (follow on Twitter):

I have felt that the Heat have been the best team all year. Toward the end of the season, they failed to come up big in some key matchups, and my confidence in them has certainly waned. I do, however, feel that playoff basketball is a whole different animal, and I believe that Miami will be ready. Considering all of the mounting pressure on LeBron to win a championship, combined with the fact that the first year of the Miami experiment resulted in a trip to the Finals (only coming up short to a Mavericks team that got incredibly hot behind one of the greatest playoff performances of all time), and I'm very comfortable calling anything short of a championship a failure. There are some teams that just have different standards than the rest of the league. After enough time passes, 95 percent of teams would look back at a trip to the Championship as a successful year, even if they came up a bit short. But all-time greats like LeBron are not measured by the number of times they finish as the runner-up. And this season, more than any before this, is about LeBron James and his place in history. I think the Spurs are playing like the best team in basketball, and have been for the last half of the season. A part of me thinks that they are just playing too well, and will win it all this year. But ultimately, I'm just not ready to bet against LeBron (even though it would have been right to do so for the last seven years.) I think Miami has a complete championship-or-bust mentality, and there's no doubt in my mind that the entire team will view anything but as a failure.

Kevin (follow on Twitter):

As a fan of the game, my opinion changed of LeBron James after the whole "taking-my-talents-to-South-Beach" train wreck of an ESPN special. In other words, he went from being a player I liked (despite being a Sixers' fan) to the player I despised the most in the NBA. And having the whole welcome party with the predictions of countless championships the next day made strengthened those feelings. My feelings are more neutral now, but I am definitely not rooting for LeBron. With all that said, I would consider a trip to the NBA Finals and a loss to either the Thunder or Spurs to be neutral -- neither a success nor failure. For the season to be viewed as a success, however, it requires a championship. If they don't get to the NBA Finals, their season would be a failure.

Sean (follow on Twitter):

I don't know how anyone can argue the other way on this. If the Heat don't win it all, then they failed period. This team was assembled to win championships, not falling short. If they fail this year then they should really look into breaking up this team, and I'd start with Chris Bosh who is as soft as they come. The Bulls are the team to beat in the East, and they win by playing defense. D. Rose will also take the big shot at the end of the game where LeBron won't.

Dan (follow on Twitter):

The answer is unequivocally and emphatically yes that the Miami Heat's season will be a failure if they do not win the NBA title this year. After all, it was LeBron that said "... not 4, not 5, not 6, but 7," and how he was taking notes from all of the haters this summer on Twitter. If your goal is to join forces with Dwyane Wade, and become the most dominant team in the league, it's title or bust.

Here are some stats about this week's NBA Consensus Power Rankings:

- Biggest jump from last week: Utah Jazz (+3.33)
- Biggest drop from last week: Houston Rockets (-3.67)
- Team with widest difference between high and low ranker: Knicks, Grizzlies, Clippers and Magic (tied, 4)

To see where all 30 teams fall in our power rankings going through the end of the regular season, click here.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

NBA Consensus Power Rankings, Week 14

No other player has done it more than once this season and Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo did it for a fifth time Sunday.

In their 19-point beatdown of the Miami Heat, Rondo finished with a triple-double: 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.

In addition, he had double-digit assists for the 13th straight game. That's the longest streak since Steve Nash had 14 straight games with double-digit assists back in 2005.

And who knows? Maybe Nash will be the Heat point guard in 2012.

Nash said on the Dan Patrick Show (via the L.A. Times) that he would be interested in, um, taking his talents to South Beach: "I would listen. He's phenomenal. I love what they're doing there. A lot of people don't like them because they put all that talent there. But they're professional, they play hard, they play together."

Both Nash and Rondo are the only two players to average double-digit assists this season.

Winners of five straight games, the Celtics are now in first place in the Atlantic Division and are the biggest mover up our Power Rankings board this week.

Here are some stats about this week's NBA Consensus Power Rankings:

- Biggest jump from last week: Boston Celtics (+4.92)
- Biggest drop from last week: Utah Jazz (-2.67)
- Team with widest difference between high and low ranker: Indiana Pacers (6) [See our full NBA Consensus Power Rankings.]

Each week, we respond to one roundtable question and here's this week's question: Excluding the top four seeds in each conference, which team will be the toughest out in the postseason?

John (follow on Twitter): Memphis Grizzlies

This one is easy for me, as I think that the Memphis Grizzlies are going to be a tougher out than some of the top four seeds in each conference. Because they are in the same division as San Antonio, who at this point has a pretty firm grip on the division, Memphis is unlikely to crack the top four by season's end, and will likely finish with either the 5 or 6 seed. The Grizzlies went on a run in last year's playoffs, and I was initially reluctant to assume that they had another run like that in them. I felt comparable about the Mavericks, who clearly have a team capable of being in contention, but are certainly not the favorite. Last year, Dallas surprised virtually everyone, getting extremely hot at the right time, and riding out one of the best playoff performances of all time by Dirk Nowitzki (a performance that for a short time, vaulted him into the conversation as a top 10 player of all time.) I feel a secondary run is extremely unlikely, even though they have the bulk of last year's championship roster. I felt similar about Memphis, but after watching them play the last few weeks, they are really built for the playoffs. They have a great mix of youth and experience, and have a team that is athletic enough to hang with the Oklahoma City's of the world. I think behind OKC and San Antonio, Memphis is the next team most likely to make a deep run, and it wouldn't shock me at all to see them in the Conference Finals.

Kevin (follow on Twitter): Philadelphia 76ers

My initial thought was to go with the Grizzlies, and while I think they will make some noise in the West, I'm going to go with the "homer" pick (Sixers). They are currently only one game out of first in the Atlantic so it's very possible that they end up with a top-four seed. Although they have been a mediocre .500 (9-9) since the break, they have plenty of attributes that make them dangerous in the East. The Sixers rank first in the NBA in team defense (87.8 points allowed per game) and first in the league in fewest turnovers (10.5 per game). They are unselfish and deep (Lou Williams leads the team in scoring off the bench) and they have elite perimeter defenders in Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday.

Dan (follow on Twitter): Memphis Grizzlies

I am going to go with the Memphis Grizzlies as the toughest non-top-four seed out in this year's postseason (much like last year). They have an awesome rotation of bigs with Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Rudy Gay, and solid scoring from both Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo. Memphis is also 17-7 at home, and have the pedigree from last year as a lower seed to spring an upset in this year's playoffs.

Sean (follow on Twitter): Memphis Grizzlies

The defending champ Mavs currently hold the No. 5 seed in the West, and would be the logical choice, but after watching them play over the past two weeks, I just don't think they can make a run. I'm going with the No. 6 seed in the West and that is the Memphis Grizzlies. Zach Randolph is back in the lineup, and they are going to be a very dangerous team in the playoffs. I think they would beat the Lakers right now in a series.

To see where all 30 teams fall in our power rankings going through Week 14, click here.

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